Ortega to attend opening of Nicaragua's national dialogue

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Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and his powerful vice president and first lady, Rosario Murillo, say they will attend the opening of a national dialogue Wednesday that follows weeks of protests that have left dozens dead and weakened their Sandinista government.

The talks between civic groups and the government will be mediated by Nicaragua's Roman Catholic Church.

"Our president will be there; we will be there along with our representatives following the organization and methodology provided by Nicaragua's bishops," said Murillo, who is also a spokeswoman for Ortega's administration, said Tuesday.

Protests against the government, roadblocks and clashes with police continued Tuesday. Human rights groups said more than 40 people were injured in the cities of Matagalpa and Juigalpa in the north and center of the Central American country.

The demonstrations began in April against a plan to cut social security payments for retirees. But a heavy crackdown that a human rights group says resulted in 65 deaths caused the protests to spread and turn into calls for Ortega and Murillo to step down.

The European Union released a statement Tuesday welcoming the dialogue and calling for an end to violence. An Organization of American States' Inter-American Commission on Human Rights mission will also visit Nicaragua, though a date has not been specified.